Tag Archives: Tradition Week

Tradition Week (Christmas): Like Kaiju

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When I was in high school, my family—along with four others—began an annual summer camping trip that still continues to this day. We head to the mountains to spend five or so days hiking around, building log rafts on the lake, playing disc golf on a course we made up, taking day trips to waterfalls, reading, playing board games, and the like. Or at least we used to. Since most of us kids are now in our 30s, and many of us have families of our own, we’ve slowed down a bit. Hammocks feature predominantly in the activity line-up.

Those five families also get together in the week after Christmas to have dinner each year. My wife, children, and I historically aren’t able to attend the post-holiday meal due to my work schedule, but as I took a week of vacation this year, we were able to make it. Other friends, who now live in other cities and on other continents, weren’t able to come, but I still got to see many of my favorite faces.

Two of my friends, in particular, hounded me with requests to appear on my blog. They waved their arms around and everything. I think they were attempting to do something funny. Something blog-worthy. So forget that I took my three children to see snow for the first time in their lives today. (Actually, don’t forget that. I plan to post about it later.)

I’ve been friends with both of these guys since I was in junior high, and they’re both very tall. One is now a lawyer, and one is a Crossfit coach. One of them I frequently refer to as the funniest person I know, which is really saying something.

We were at one of those all-you-can-eat salad-bar buffet places, and he left half of an avocado on his plate when he went to get seconds—adding a request to not let any passing servers take the avocado along with his messy tray. Not five seconds went by after he left when a server came to our table to ask if he could remove anything. I handed him the entire tray, avocado half and all. But I had a change of heart and rescued the coveted food item before it was gone for good. Then I hid it on my lap.

My friend is the type to appreciate the joke, but he’s also the type to sort of wish I had really gone all the way through with it: to have actually let the waiter clear away the avocado. My friend prefers a good punchline to getting what he wants.

He also “accidentally” spilled some chicken pozole soup down my back when he was walking back to the table and noticing that his precious avocado half was gone.

Anyway, he’s really tall. So is my other friend, which is why I granted their request for a blog appearance tonight. And it’s late.

I miss them.

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Tradition Week (Christmas): Not Blogging

Hey all! Sorry I didn’t post for the 26th. I was enjoying the follow-up to a semi-tradition my wife and I have of staying at a bed and breakfast on Christmas night. The next morning started with sleeping in and some eggs benedict delivered to our room, and everything just got better from there, so I decided to make a day of enjoying life instead of enjoying writing about life. And doodling. I did doodle little caricatures of my wife and I in the B&B’s guest book, and I only now realized I should have taken a picture of that for the blog.

My wife slept for her first night ever away from the thirdborn, which was a full night’s sleep 16 months in the making. I slept pretty well, though I got up to pee in the middle of the night and then banged my leg on an antique chair as I was walking back to bed in the dark. The bed was so tall, my wife needed help getting up on it. It had a lot of pillows, too.

I really liked our room, except there was this door to an unknown feature—closet? adjoining room? hallway to outdoors? Narnia?—that was locked and had a doorknob that endlessly spun when I turned it. Anyone or anything could have come into our room while we slept. I managed to get to sleep, though—a couple of times.

In fact, just after we checked in at 5:30, we both fell asleep for about half an hour. We took a nap on Dec. 25. Merry Christmas to us. Later on—after not sleeping for a while—I was reading out loud to my wife (Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan) when I suddenly declared that I was tired, and, apparently, according to my wife, instantly fell asleep. It was 9:30.

Cut to the day after Christmas, when we finally managed to get all three kids asleep by 9:30. Their usual bedtime is 6:30. I could use another Christmas sooner than next December.

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Tradition Week (Christmas): Merry Christmas

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My 6-year-old drew this yesterday on a new whiteboard at my parents’ house.

Merry Christmas from all of us in the Shallows!

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Tradition Week (Christmas): All About Eve

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My 4-year-old drew this on my parents’ porch today with chalk she got in a present. Later in the afternoon, I was carrying a load of boxes out to our van and didn’t want my son to get out too, so I asked her to close the door behind me.

Her: I need my chalk!

Me: Close the door, please.

Her: Where’s my chalk?!

Me: The door! Close it now, please!

Her: I need my chalk!

Me: Close the door!

Her: I forgot to draw the tornado!

I’ve been blessed to have Christmas traditions that are roughly compatible with my wife’s family’s traditions, as well as to have parents and in-laws who are willing to be flexible. So my wife’s parents’ annual Christmas Eve fondue dinner was on Christmas Eve Eve this year. And we treated Christmas Eve itself as Christmas day with my family. We’ll spend Christmas Eve night with my parents and my dad’s brother’s family, and Christmas Christmas with my wife’s family.

It sounds busy—and it is—but we’ve more often than not managed to schedule out big blocks of time so we don’t feel like yo-yos spinning rapidly between a couple of houses.

Plus, we have a tradition of going away Christmas night when we can, just my wife and I, to a local bed and breakfast.

Amid it all, we get to see friends and cousins, aunts and uncles, and multiple generations enjoying conversation and fun under one roof.

When my cousins were little, we would go to my uncle’s house for Christmas Eve, and I would tell them elephant jokes on the drive across town back to my house, where we’d read the Christmas story. Now that they’re older and we get together at my parents house, we tend to show each other Youtube videos.

I love seeing my family, which is why I’m cutting off this post here and rejoining the chaos—though it is nice to have an excuse to sequester myself away for a breather. (I’ve found since starting this blog, however, that they also tend to worry that certain stories or anecdotes will find their way onto the Internet. Some will, someday.)

Also, my girls are right now shouting about seeing the Magic Shoe, which is a pink, glittery sneaker that’s been known to peek in windows or skitter across the lawn at my parents’ house from time to time.

Merry Christmas!

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Tradition Week (Christmas): The Food

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In his book Me Talk Pretty One Day, in the essay titled “Jesus Shaves,” Dave Sedaris explores the difficulty in explaining a holiday to someone for whom it has no cultural reference: “Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do,” he writes. “We talked about food instead.”

Sedaris was relating an anecdote about parsing Easter for two Moroccan students in a beginners’ French class he was taking, but the sentiment applies here, too.

Many of my Christmas memories involve food—and it’s no wonder. Smell, tied as it is into the sense of taste, is a powerful force in triggering recollections and remembrances.

I remember my mom making beef stew in the crock pot, where it would simmer throughout the day. Picking almonds out of the party mix at my paternal grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve. Eating beef stroganoff later that night. A tart lemon dessert my maternal grandmother made each year (and still makes from time to time; I got to have a slice this past Thanksgiving). Containers of bacon bits, bottles of Ranch dressing (both staples of my diet when I was younger), and Pez in my stocking on Christmas morning, which often yielded to a breakfast casserole fresh from the oven. The one and only time I had alcohol before I was 21 (shh, don’t tell!) was when I got a splash of champagne in my orange juice one Dec. 25.

Food showed up everywhere: I remember the cinnamon and gingerbread smell of a paper fold-out holiday street scene we unpacked along with the other decorations. And the photo of candlelight illuminating some sparkling champagne on the album cover I carefully handled each year so I could listen to “Do You Hear What I Hear?” And the Christmas ornaments featuring small mice tucked cozily into beds made from walnut shell halves.

As my family has expanded, so have the food memories. My wife’s family tends to enjoy cheese fondue on Christmas eve, a meal for which I’ve declared myself the official cheese grater.

I love grating cheese. It’s so gratifying to watch the block get smaller while the pile grows larger. You can tell you’re really accomplishing something. Success is so measurable and obvious.

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(I included my hand for a sense of scale.)

My children have been quick to identify and generate their own traditions. They may try something once and then declare that that’s what they eat whenever they visit Grandma and Grandpa, as they have with biscuits and gravy at my parents’ house.

I realized recently that now is when their lifelong memories are starting. My earliest recollections—the ones I can reliably say are true and in context—are from when I was 4 to 6 years old, so this is the time in my kids’ lives when they’re inhaling the scents of seasonal spices or otherwise mundane meals and connecting them with sparkling colored lights, sleeping bags under the Christmas tree, and everything else catching their eyes this winter.

In other news, I fell asleep while writing this post.

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